Research shows that the use of social media in learning impacts achievement in a positive way. Increasingly, digital communication skills—including texting, tweeting, and Instagramming, —must be mastered. Social media is one way to strengthen communication skills. Below are some of the ways social media can be used to create high levels of engagement, explore the possibilities of collaborative learning environments, and enjoy the measurably positive effects on the teaching and learning process.
Increasing Student Engagement. Students are more willing to connect when they can utilize technology to research information, share ideas, and produce final products. The use of social media tools helps students share information, communicate ideas, and create videos to extend and enhance their learning and demonstrate their mastery of content and skills. Designing lessons that ask students to utilize social media as they work to solve problems, complete projects, and communicate ideas builds confidence, generates enthusiasm, and fosters a sense of play in the learning process. These are key elements to creating an engaging learning environment.
Fostering Collaborative Community Learning Environments. Humans are inherently social animals. We have a strong desire to connect with one another in social settings and social media provides an exciting playground in which to develop learning environments that can create rich learning experiences for students. By encouraging students to use Twitter during class discussions or for test prep, students can be encouraged to develop connections with peers and reinforce the collaborative nature of learning. Educators can use social media to develop creativity in their students by encouraging them to explore content material in a variety of ways. Social media provides students with options for creating authentic, creative products through tools such as blogs, YouTube or Vine videos, and podcasts. Students communicating with teachers, students communicating with students, and students communicating with the outside world are all vital skills for the world of work and college.
Promoting Teaching and Learning. Research indicates that social media has positive effects on learning outcomes. Students who utilize social media alongside their coursework demonstrate improved grades when compared with non-connected classmates. Peer feedback on assignments and thoughtful reflections on content increase through the open communication and strong relationships established with peers. Social media also fosters long-term retention of information. A deeper understanding is developed when social media extends the classroom discussions and work. Using social media in the learning process will allow students to develop and share newly developed ideas, symbols, and ways of knowing.
Lisa Gonzales is superintendent in the Portola Valley School District. Charles Young is associate superintendent in the Palo Alto Unified School District. Both are California TICAL cadre members.
TIPS FOR TEACHERS
■ Make social media purposeful and ensure students are clear about the “why.”
■ Match the type of social media with the learning outcomes for students.
■ Help students learn about social media overstimulation and how to stay focused.
■ Support student safety and decision-making by including discussions on digital footprints, cyber-bullying, and plagiarism.
■ Align assessment and evaluation strategies to effectively gauge student learning.
WHAT ADMINISTRATORS NEED TO KNOW
■ Make sure equipment and Internet access are available.
■ Ensure teachers have been trained in strategies to support purposeful use of social media with clear learning outcomes.
■ Have clear use and safety policies in place that are widely communicated to parents and students.
■ Balance the use of any technology with other important communication skills, such as handwriting, speaking, and listening.
■ Consider platform flexibility so students can competently navigate across a bevy of platforms and operating systems.